How to Showcase Your Achievements When You (Think You) Don’t Have Any

How to Showcase Your Achievements When You (Think You) Don’t Have AnyI received an email from a reader in response to a recent cover letter article I wrote on LinkedIn  asking me to address situations in which job seekers may not be top shelf candidates with fancy achievement numbers, yet nonetheless need help in figuring out how to showcase their accomplishments in resumes, cover letters, or LinkedIn profiles.

As part of Job Action Day, I’ve boldfaced his questions below, and inserted my replies and suggestions immediately thereafter. Tom (not his real name) raises valuable issues that I suspect others will resonate with.

There are many who are either not top performers or who do not have the data to provide evidence of outstanding performance.  True, but these are two different issues. There are top performers who do not have the necessary data, too. It’s important to distinguish which situation you are in: whether you are a good, but not exceptional performer versus whether you are a top performer, but cannot access the data you need to prove it.

If you are a good, but not exceptional candidate, here are some strategies to boost your visibility to employers.

  • Don’t assume that you have no achievements. Ask yourself these questions to help you uncover your accomplishments (since you may not be aware of how you’re doing).
    • What challenges did you face in the role? How did you solve them? What impact did your solutions have on the business?
    • What impact did you have on sales, profitability, or cost containment?
    • Did you turnaround any initiatives or contribute to keeping a key project on time or budget?
    • What did you do which was above and beyond the call of duty in the job?
  • Don’t assume you cannot include numbers in your resume or LinkedIn profile just because there are no metrics measuring a specific achievement. Try asking yourself these questions:
    • Can you make a reasonable guestimate at things like sales or savings? If you know some numbers (how much a product costs, for example, or how many items you sold), you may be able to mathematically extract a fair estimation of your impact.
    • Can you project future impacts that haven’t yet been realized? If you don’t claim these as realized and clearly state they are projections or estimates, you can still use this data.
    • You don’t need to have exact numbers to describe an achievement on your resume. You need enough data to be able to portray the achievement accurately. That sometimes means saying something like “tens of thousands” or “hundreds of millions” of dollars rather than a specific number.

Top performers usually do not struggle to find jobs for obvious reasons. This is not necessarily true. Top performance is more evident inside a company than out — it takes an exceptional resume, LinkedIn profile, recruiter relationships, and/or network for that performance to become visible outside a company. If a top performer is in an active job search and doesn’t have the right career communications portfolio or network, the odds are high they will struggle in their job hunt to find and leverage opportunities. This is even more true for middle-of-the-road candidates, which means it is even more critical that they get help to bolster their communications portfolio and search strategy.

It is the middle of the pack job seeker that usually have a harder time finding a job because companies ARE looking for the top performers. Not in all cases. Some companies know they cannot afford a top performer, so they avidly seek a strong performer who isn’t necessarily top-shelf material because they know that person will accept a lower salary.

So how about addressing this portion of the population and provide ideas and examples of a VPL where a job seeker is a good performer and does his/her job but does not have the accolades to provide? That’s a fair request, so I have altered some of my examples from this LinkedIn post for job seekers without access to magnificent metrics.

  • Sales Team Start-Ups: Sourced, hired, trained, and directed new sales teams of up to 200 associates with an emphasis on staff retention. Guided (how many) Sales Representatives to win President’s Awards. Note: If you train sales teams, you would be able to determine the number who won awards through simple observation. You would also be able to track the number of people you trained.
  • New Product Launches: Strategized plans for the launch of 3 new products in the cancer treatment space and harnessed customer segmentation and competitive wins to fuel sales gains. Note: If your company doesn’t share sales or market share statistics, you will not be able to give specific numbers. But you may be able to share anecdotal comments you’ve heard or estimate revenue gains based on what you know about product purchase prices.
  • Revenue Generation: Leveraged 1:1 coaching, team-building, ride-alongs, role plays, and formal sales training to drive revenue. Note: Here again, if you don’t have access to sales figures, you may be able to estimate sales based on what you do know. If you can find out how many sales a single team did, for example, you can multiply that number by the item purchase price(s). If that amount equals $750K, for example, and there are 6 teams in your region, you can now say that you helped position $4.5M in sales.

There are many whose jobs do not lend themselves to performance numbers or KPIs; but they do a good/great job day in and day out. They may have been laid off and are looking for a new job. I’ve been writing resumes in more than 30 different industries on 6 continents for thousands of job seekers from blue collar trades professionals to senior executives and I have NEVER found a single job seeker for whom it wasn’t possible to identify at least some achievements. Granted, there may not be any metrics to report, but you may be able to contrast your performance with a peer or the average in that role in the company. Or, you may be able to include a complimentary quote about your performance from a peer or supervisor.

My experience is that the vast majority of people who say they have no performance numbers or achievements to report have not thoroughly examined their own work history for them. This is tough, I know, because it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. But it is an important self-assessment activity for all job seekers to perform. And if you find you cannot do it on your own, it’s time to engage a certified resume writer who has been trained in soliciting this kind of information from his or her clients.

Job Action DayI mentioned above that this post is part of LiveCareer’s Job Action Day ~ be sure to check out this year’s theme: Survive and Thrive: Using Transferable Skills to Give Your Career New Life. You’ll find tons of articles from bloggers and career experts to help you take action and elevate your work life.

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